A Studio Ghibli Appreciation Bottle Garden

Well, it’s probably no secret that I love Studio Ghibli animes and their magical worlds and being. And I wanted to do a bottle garden for a while, the jar has been standing in the cellar for ages. A bottle garden is a close eco system, where the plants produce oxygen and carbohydrates that then gets consumed by the microorganisms that feed on the decaying plant matter. They’re an invention of 19th century botanists that needed to transport their precious plant samples by boat. The closed boxes don’t need water or fertilizer and there are some that are decades old.

I finally decided what I wanted to do with it and got some supplies, only to be foiled by transport damage. I love the kodama, the little tree spirits from Princess Mononoke  and happily ordered some on Etsy, only this is how they arrived:

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The seller promised quick replacement, but I didn’t want to wait because who could tell if I had time then, so I glued them back together. They’re extremely detailed gypsum casts, so I covered them with clear nail polish because I was afraid that otherwise they’d melt inside the bottle garden. Then I wanted a small dead twig from our old apple tree and ended up tearing off a big branch…

Next: assembling the garden. First layer: pebbles for drainage.

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I actually wanted to add a layer of clay substrate, but I couldn’t find it anymore. I won’t claim to have a photographic memory, but I have a very good memory for “where did I see this last”, otherwise I wouldn’t be able to deal with my chaos. Mr, not so much, and while I don’t blame him, it’s endlessly frustrating to know that he put something somewhere and him not even remembering that the thing exists. Well, the pebbles do the job anyway.  You could now add some charcoal, which I’m probably going to do retroactively.

Next: potting soil and plants.

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This is pretty moist and probably a thriving ecosystem already. I planted an offspring of one of my succulents and a semper vivum (next pic). those are not ideal plants for a bottle garden. We will see how they do. If they don’t thrive I need to remove the lid and keep watering them like ordinary plants (I only keep orchids and succulents indoors because I suck at watering them).


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Next step: Moss and decoration

I collected the moss from a tree stump in the garden. Did you know that by now you can by “moss for decorating” in the garden centre? Like, what?

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Sadly, taking the pics through the glass is, well. The light just refracts too much.

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I added some fairy lights by drilling through the lid and then sealing the hole with hot glue. Pics are even worse like this.

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They do look happy in their new home, don’t they? Now I got to balance the water and hope that they like it in there.


What HAVE you been doing: an update

First of all, a profound sorry for being such a bad blog host recently. During the week I mostly just crash after coming home and then I put in some hours for chores and lesson planning and then I watch some senseless TV and then I crash again.

I also need to apologise to the people whose mail i still have here, all ready to go if only I could drag my ass to the post office…

School’s crazy right now. We were closed for a week on short notice, kids going missing, kids being found again, spending hours on the phone, exams, tests, colleagues collapsing in the staff room (it’s that time of the year. For some reason, that colleague always collapses in late spring, but is unable to just stay the fuck at home and call a doctor)… And now we get a week of break for pentecost and then  all kids are coming back and we all hate it.

At the weekends Mr and I have been very busy in the garden, which is my current delight, or would be, if the weather wasn’t what it is. It’s currently 7°C and raining, and it has been like this for weeks and it’s supposed to last for at least another two weeks. The cats tail is having a party… So yeah, I’m not a fun person right now…

Anyway, at least we finished the big project and I could now start the planting if I wasn’t at risk of drowning on dry land. But I’m really proud of what we built and it will look great once I do manage to plant stuff.

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That’s the whole slope finished, still with the plastic bags on top of the last row so it won’t wash away the concrete. The thing on the left is our to be torn down garage, I just hope they won’t completely ruin the garden when they do (in a couple of years). Those three windows you see at the top are my office, btw, so all your posts are coming from there.

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That’s just the top part. The lower terrace is already prepared for planting, by doing a good dig and mixing our sandy soil with (peat free) planting soil. The top part is still trampled flat. No wonder the cats tail is having a party: Nutrition poor compressed soil and the two weathers of “it’s raining” and “it’s about to rain”. I also did some first planting. The two top terraces will be a three sisters planting. The corn is ready and my mum promised me some more squash.

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Here’s a view downwards. Just for scale: each stone is about 20cm high, so you can get an idea about the height difference. Of all the squash I already planted only three survived and only one survived well..

I did manage to finish one small resin project. The problem is that it’s still too cold to work with epoxy, and it’s too light to work with the UV resin, as it cures before I can use it.

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A little fairy garden. And I made some new friends:

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Let’s just hope that summer will come, even though spring got cancelled and we can spend some time in the pool with them…


Tales from the Wee Woods

©voyager. All rights reserved.

“Mummy, wake up. I think there’s someone at the door.”
I heard Jack stirring beside me, working hard to get his stiff arthritic body in motion. I turned over, put my hand on his back, and looked at the clock. It was only 7:15, much too early for visitors, but then I heard it, too— a small tap-tap-tap at the back patio door. Very curious, I thought, no-one uses our back door. It’s inside our fenced yard, but that was definitely where the sound was emanating.
“It can’t be a visitor, Bubba. Must be the wind,” I said as Jack stiffly rose from his bed and slowly limped out of the room. I sat up and reached for my fluffy blue robe, then slid my feet into the raggedy red slippers I kept meaning to replace.
Tap-Tap, Tap.
The sound was getting louder and more insistent. I glanced in the mirror as I followed behind Jack and softly chuckled at my hair sticking out in all directions and in definite need of a cut and colour.
“Mummy, hurry, Gnorman is here,” Jack shouted.
Gnorman! What the heck is an elf doing here? My mind raced as I turned the corner. Jack was already at the door with his nose between the curtains and his tail wagging excitedly. I pulled back the drapes, and sure enough, there stood Gnorman in a tall green cap with a grey fur tassel, a long coat that reached to his feet and on those feet, a pair of shiny red boots with pointy toes that curled up. His round cheeks and stubby nose were red, but his eyes were smiling as he removed his cap and bowed to us in greeting. I quickly opened the door and waved him in, remarking,
“Gnorman! Welcome, please come in.”
“Thank you, Voyager. Hi Jack,” Gnorman said, going over to Jack and giving him a deep, long hug.
“It’s good to see you, Gnorman, but how did you get here,” I asked.
“I used the magic door, of course,” he said, adding, “and it wasn’t easy on this end because of all the snow piled up. I used a bit of magic to clear a path, but it should be kept shovelled!” He looked up at me pointedly, and although his merry eyes twinkled, I could see he was serious.
“Yes, of course, Gnorman. I’ll make sure to do that from now on.” I replied.

In all honesty, I’d completely forgotten about the door. It was given to Jack at the summer party the fairies threw to thank Bubba and me for finding Oma Trautchen and bringing her home. The door was custom-made and calibrated just for Jack and was presented to him by King Gunter. It came with a note saying,

Made with care by Sir Surly Badger, Wizard at Large
Maker of fine magical doors and latches, cooking pots, crystal balls, swords, pasta, weather vanes, and sporks.

The door allows Jack to travel from home to the fairy woods. He stands in front of the door recites the phrase,

Pizzlewizzle bag of balls,
I wish for you to make me small
So I may see my friends this day
and spend some time engaged in play.

Then blammo, whammo Jack shrinks down to the size of a mouse, the door swings open, and he walks into the tree and out of a distant tree at the fairy woods.

The fairy party where Jack first used his magic door. ©voyager. All rights reserved.

Jack started using the door in the autumn when his failing mobility began making it hard for him to get in and out of the car. He made almost daily trips through his magic door until the deep of winter set in, and his legs became unpredictably weak. It had been many weeks since Jack even talked about his fairy friends or tried to visit, and now here was Gnorman visiting us.
“We’ve been missing you, Jack,” he said. “I came to see if there is a problem with the door, but it worked perfectly for me, so I’m left to conclude that there is a problem with you.” He looked deeply into Jack’s eyes for a moment and then away.
“I see. We wondered about that, too.”
“About what, Gnorman?” I asked.
There was a long, loud silence before he spoke. “Voyager, I’m sorry, but Jack is entering his end time in this realm,” he said as a tear slipped down his cheek and disappeared into his whiskers.
I felt my legs go weak, and I sunk to the floor beside Jack. My eyes filled with tears, and I couldn’t speak.
“Mummy,” Jack finally said, “Gnorman is right. This old body is worn out, and I can’t stay in it much longer.” He reached over and kissed me gently, continuing, “The fairies have told me that I can come and live with them in a ‘spirit’ body, but it means I must leave here…. and you, forever.” He nuzzled his bowling ball of a head into my neck as I began to weep.
Gnorman reached over and put his small hand on top of mine and said,
“I know this is difficult, Voyager, but we will love and cherish Jack always, and he will be free of pain and struggle.”
“I understand. That’s what I want too,” I said. “When will you leave?”
Gnorman spoke up quickly, “the sooner, the better, Voyager. His pain is sharp, and his legs are weak.”
“Bubba, what do you want,” I asked.
“Mummy, I’m worried about you. I don’t want to go until I know that you’ll be alright,” he said, nuzzling close to me.
“Oh, sweet Jack. I’ll be sad no matter when you leave, but you taught me to be brave. It’s most important to me that you are not suffering.”

We all stood there for a moment, lost in our own thoughts, when Gnorman finally spoke up, “we can be ready by tomorrow for the ceremony. King Gunter and the fairies have been preparing for this time. Jack is one of our own. He came from the spirit realm, and we will carry him back to it.”
“I’m ready for tomorrow,” said Jack.
I couldn’t speak. A knot had taken hold in my chest, and all I could do was reach up to stroke Jack’s ears. Tomorrow was so soon, and I realized at that moment how difficult Jack’s life had become for him to make this decision.
“Ahhh, Voyager,” Gnorman put his tiny hands around mine, “I know this is hard for you, but I promise you that Jack will be safe and loved.”
“That’s all I want.”
“Then, so it shall be. I’ll return tomorrow at this same time, and I will help Jack through the magic door for the last time. He won’t be able to return, but you may keep the door as a memory holder.”
The rest of the day passed in a fog. Jack and I reminisced about our many adventures and spent the day holding each other close. The hours flew by, and I wanted to scream at the universe that time was passing too fast. Jack., though, was calm and steady, and I could see in his eyes that he was already letting go of his life here. That night, I slept on the floor with him curling my body around his.

Gnorman and Gmary were back at my door at first light, both dressed in long silver robes with white fur and carrying lanterns lit with a bright white light.
“Are you ready for your return to the realm of the spirit, Jack?”
“Yes, I am. Mummy, I love you. My love will always be with you. I have had a wonderful life here with you, and the bond we share will live on.”
My tears were flowing freely, and I hugged Jack close. “Will I ever see you again,” I asked.
“No, but you will feel me. I will live in the wind that rustles the trees and makes the flowers dance. When you’re tired or lonely or sad, I will be beside you and whisper my love in your ear. I will speak our devotion to the birds, and they will carry it in their song, and your love will nourish me through all eternity.”
A million words ran through my mind, but all I could speak was, “I love you.”
Jack nuzzled close for the last time and said to me quietly, “I hear all the words you cannot speak, Mummy. Please don’t stay sad. You have much love inside of you, and it’s important to share. You will find new things to love and hold close, and our bond will survive always.”
And with that, Gnorman and Gmary raised their lanterns and led Jack toward the magic door. Jack took a long lingering look back and finally, with a heavy sigh, spoke the magic words and said, “I am ready.” The door opened, and in an instant, they were gone. The door heaved a heavy sigh and snapped shut with a finality that made my heart skip a few beats.
“Goodbye, my sweet Bubba. I promise I will listen for you in the wind.”

Jack’s Walk

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Oh my! It’s been almost a week since Jack’s party, and I’m still feeling a bit of a hazy buzz. The bumblebees have mostly left my head, though, and Jack was right; my memory is clearing. It still feels more like a dream than a memory, but Jack tells me that fairy magic is like that, and he assures me that it was all quite real.

Let me begin at the beginning.
I awoke early on party day, full of excitement and anticipation. Jack lay gently snoring at my feet, so I slipped out of bed as softly as I could, trying not to wake him. I schlumped into the kitchen and made coffee, drinking it while I prepared our picnic. First into my basket went the things

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Apple had asked me to bring; plump black cherries and sweet, red strawberries. Then I added a heap of ripe purple blueberries, the little peanut butter cookies that I’d made the night before, a few milk bones, napkins, water and my camera. (I am the family pack-mule) By the time I was organized, Jack was awake and had padded out to the kitchen. He sat staring at his empty bowl, so I took the hint and fed him, and then went to do my morning ablutions and get dressed.
When Jack had finished eating, he joined me, asking, “Are we having a picnic today, Mummy?”
“You bet, Bubba. It’s a beautiful day, and I thought we could go to the fairy woods.”
Jack’s face lit up, and he said, “That’s a fabulous idea, Mummy.”
“I know,” I said as I headed to the door, “Lets, go, Bubbs.”

The day was fresh and bright, just as Apple had predicted. The high heat and humidity had blown away overnight, leaving behind perfect summer weather. The day was bright and sunny, and the air was warm with a gentle fresh breeze. Small white clouds shape-shifted lazily across a cornflower blue sky as we drove through the countryside.

There were no other cars in the parking lot, and it didn’t take us long to get on the trail. Jack was in high spirits, but after a few minutes, he said to me, “None of the fairies have come to see us, Mummy. I hope everything is alright.”
“I’m sure everything is fine, Bubba. Maybe they’re busy with chores. ”
As we neared the first bench, I saw it first… a sign pinned to a tree that said Welcome, King Jackson Brown & Voyager. I pointed it out to Jack, who looked at it for a few moments and finally said, “That’s odd. Why would the fairies make a sign for us?”
Before I had a chance to reply, the air lit up with fairies flying in from all directions, each calling out “Surprise, Jack!”
Jack looked confused for a moment, but he finally smiled and began to hop, trying to touch the fairies with his nose as they fluttered around him.
A few of the younger ones settled on his back and ran their wee fingers through his thick chestnut brown coat, making Jack laugh. There were dozens of them, all wearing shimmery dresses made from a rainbow of bright, colourful flowers. The dust of their trails mixed and mingled until the air resembled a luminous living landscape by Monet. Where the sunlight pierced the trees in dappled patches, the colours shone like stained glass. I sneezed a few times, and the fairies found this hilarious. Their laughter surrounded us as we rounded the corner to the first bench,
where Jack and I both gasped at the wondrous sight. The forest had been transformed. A small clearing had been made, and the area was dressed for a party.

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The trees were festooned with curls of bright ribbon, and the ground was strewn with flower petals and glittering sprinkles that winked and sparkled and in the shifting light. A bright copper wire with teeny tiny lights wound through the leaves of a shrub, and words of thanks and friendship had been clipped to it. There were itty-bitty picnic tables covered with brightly dotted,

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light cotton cloths and round tables that resembled plant stands fitted with glistening watercoloured tops. Around these tables were bright blue stools with colourful covers that matched the shiny tabletops. More of these stools had been set off to one side, nestled into a patch of ferns. There was an intoxicating scent of mingling flowers in the air, and the happy chattering of the fairies filled the clearing and became like music to my ears. My senses were overcome. It was a pandemonium of fairies, and Jack was utterly delighted to be at the centre of it. His eyes shone like polished amber, and he radiated happiness.

I could feel another sneeze coming on, so I moved away from the brouhaha to the human-sized bench and sat my basket down. I reached in and took out the fruit and cookies that I’d brought, and the moment I set them down, a pair of elves appeared as if by magic and carried them away!

After a few minutes, an elegant fairy named Whistler flew out of the commotion and up a tree. He clapped his hand twice and harrumphed until the forest was quiet. Then with a theatrical flair, he banged a small gong three times and said, “Hello, hello. Welcome, Jack and Voyager. Today’s party is held in your honour, as a small thanks for your service to the fairy realm. When our beloved Oma Troutchen went missing we placed our trust in you, and to our great delight, you brought Oma home quickly and safely. We are thankful and hope you both enjoy yourselves.”
Then he banged the gong again and said, “Let the party begin.”

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Jack’s Walk


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Oh My! Jack and I are still exhausted from yesterday’s party. It was a fabulous day, filled with happy surprises, but today both of us are bleary-eyed and bushed. Jack says that fairie dust can muddle you up and make you sleepy, and that’s exactly how I feel – muddled and ready for another nap.

“Don’t worry, Mummy. The forgetting will go away soon.”

“Will the bumblebees in my head also go away?”

“Silly, mummy. Of course, they will. Are they bothering you?”

“Not really. I’m starting to like the way they tickle when they dance.” I reached over to Jack and wiggled my fingers into the thick pile of his ruff and started to scratch. Jack tilted his head back and closed his eyes.

“Jack, will I be able to remember your special day, or will it fade away with the fairie dust?”

He put his head down and laughed,

“Mummy! That’s a silly question. Of course, you’ll be able to remember. When the fairie dust fades, it will all make sense. I promise.” he wiggled closer to me and said, “Until then, I think we should just cuddle and close our eyes.”

“Alright, Jack, that sounds perfect. Hopefully, tomorrow I’ll be able to process all the vivid party vignettes in my head into a narrative. Maybe the bees can help.


Jack’s Walk

A hot dog full of sticky, little burrs. ©voyager, all rights reserved.

This morning Jack and I went for a walk in our wee woods. We hadn’t been for several weeks because the trail is about a kilometre long, and Jack can’t walk that far in the heat anymore. He’s been missing his friends, though, and today he wanted to go, saying that he could stop for rests and that the shade of the woods would keep him from overheating. I trust Jack’s instincts, so I packed 2 litres of water, some dark, sweet cherries and a sticky, ripe peach for me along with a tuna sandwich and some biscuits to share with Bubba, plus a book and a small, blue and white checked picnic cloth. I thought we’d make a morning of it.

It wasn’t oppressively hot when we set out, but it was humid, and Jack and I both felt heavy and lumbering.  Our steps soon got lighter, though, as we were beset upon by dozens of fairies flitting around us and chatting excitedly. They were most excited to see Jack and kept telling him how much he had been missed. Many of the younger fairies giggled and asked Jack if they could ride on his back, and he happily obliged them all. Bits of colourful glitter sparkled in the dappled sunlight as the fairies darted about, and the colours mixed and swirled like a kaleidoscope. There was so much fairie dust in the air that it made me sneeze twice, and caused a wave of laughter that chinkled like chimes and echoed through the trees. We stopped briefly for water before we finally arrived at the first bench, where we sat and shared our sandwich.

It seems that Jack is a bit of a celebrity since his adventures finding Oma Troutchen, and everyone wanted to say hello. I could see Jack’s spirits rising as the fairies came and went, each arrival and departure changing the colours in the air and the wafting scent of mingling flowers. They were all very polite, and each introduced themselves, but there were so many of them that I soon lost track of just who was who. It was just a chaos of fairies, and my senses were somewhat overcome. There was one fairy, though, that stayed with us all the way around. Her name was Apple, and she smelled delicious, and she kept asking questions about Jack. Where was he born, and on what day? Was he a country dog or a city dog? What were his favourite things? When she learned that Jack’s full name is Wasserhund’s King Jackson Brown, she got quite excited and wanted to know more about his royal roots. Jack is shy about his family history, but Apple was persistent, and Jack finally opened up about his birth family’s estate and their status as Canadian Field Champions. I smiled as Jack made sure she understood that his real, forever parents are the humble but loving Mr. and me. When Apple found out that Jack was born on February 29, she was all aflutter, calling the day Moontide Makeup Day and saying that it’s no wonder Jack is so brave.

We sat for about 20 minutes, chatting and laughing as we watched the antics of a group of squirrels busy with squirrel shenanigans until Jack said he was ready to carry on. He struggled to stand, and the fairies quickly sprinkled some of their magic dust to help him up, and we were soon on our way again. Apple flew up and sat on my shoulder, and I sneezed again, making her wobble, but she soon settled down, and I felt my steps lighten as if gravity was loosening its hold. As we walked, the chaos of fairies continued until it seemed the whole forest was alive with moving colour and the music of fairy voices. I told Apple how beautiful it all was, and she laughed, telling me that the forest is always alive like this, but humans haven’t the senses to see or hear or smell it all. Apple said that because I had helped find Oma Troutchen, they had agreed to use some fairy magic to allow me to see their world. I thanked her for the fabulous gift, and she leaned over to stroke my cheek in reply. It was beguiling, and I was so enchanted by it all that time faded away. Before I knew it, we were at the end of the trail, and I could see that Jack was weary. It seems even fairy magic isn’t enough to erase Jack’s years, but he was happy. His eyes were bright, his tail was high, and his spirit shone as brightly as the glittered watercolour trails of magic swirling through the trees.

As we made our way to the car, Apple whispered in my ear that the fairies were planning a party to thank Jack and invited us to return at the same hour in three days’ time. She promised the day would be bright, but fresher and asked me to not to tell Jack; they wanted to surprise him. I readily agreed, mentally planning to make sure Bubba and I were both rested. I asked what I could bring, and Apple quickly told me that some cherries and strawberries would be appreciated. I promised I would bring lots and then reached into my pack and placed my sack of uneaten cherries on the ground. Bunches of fairies soon swooped down, scooping up the dark red fruit in their arms and carrying them off with a chorus of goodbyes and good wishes. Apple stayed with us until I had Bubba settled in the car and then flew off to join the others, leaving behind a fragrant trail of aquamarine dust.

Oh My! A fairy party! We’ve been invited to a fairy party, and it’s in Jack’s honour. I’m so excited that it’s going to be hard to keep the secret from Bubba, but I will… somehow. Now, what does one wear to such an event?


The Art of Book Design: Where the Blue Begins

More allegory than a fairy tale, this book is a delightful dog story filled with the imaginative and charming artwork of Arthur Rackham, one of the great artists of the golden age of book illustration, which lasted from about 1880 to 1920. There are many line drawings throughout the book, but only 4 full-colour illustrations, all of which I’ve attached. Enjoy.

Christopher Morley. Where the Blue Begins. Illustrated by Arthur Rackham. Philadelphia, Lippincott, 1922.

Frontispiece, Where the Blue Begins.


Page 28, Where the Blue Begins.

Page 92, Where the Blue Begins.

Page 148, Where the Blue Begins.



via: The Internet Archive

Cover Photo via Abe Books

The Art of Book Design: The Lilac Fairy Book

Andrew Lang. The Lilac Fairy Book. Illustrated by H.J. Ford. New York (etc.), Longmans, Green, and co., 1910.

We’ve reached the last book of the Andrew Lang coloured fairy series. The Lilac book was published in 1910, at a time when illustrated fairy tales were going out of fashion. It’s filled with the whimsical drawings of H.J. Ford and, as usual, I’ve attached all of the full-page drawings below the fold. The entire set of 12 books are all linked at the end of the post. Enjoy.

[Read more…]

The Art of Book Design: The Orange Fairy Book

Andrew Lang. The Orange Fairy Book. Illustrated by H.J. Ford. New York, Longmans, Green, 1906.

This week’s Andrew Lang fairy book comes to us courtesy of the colour orange. As usual, I’ve attached all of the full-page illustrations and they’re a delight. Done by the talented H.J. Ford, each one is filled with wonder and whimsy. Last week I told you that this is the last book of the Andrew Lang coloured series and I was wrong. There’s one final book which I’ll post next Saturday. Until then, Enjoy.

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The Art of Book Design: The Olive Fairy Book

Andrew Lang. The Olive Fairy Book. Illustrations by H.J. Ford. London, New York, Longmans, Green, 1907.

This week’s Andrew Lang fairy book is the second to last book of the series and it’s filled with whimsy and charm. There are dragons and serpents, oxen and camel, spiders and lots and lots of birds. I’ve included all the full-page drawings because each of them spoke to me in one way or another.

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The Crimson Fairy Book

Andrew Lang. The Crimson Fairy Book. Illustrations by H. J. Ford. London &  New York,  Longmans, Green and Co., 1903.

This week we’re looking at Andrew Lang’s Crimson coloured fairy book. I had a terrible time choosing the artwork to showcase in this post because all of it is wonderful. H.J. Ford’s full-page drawings are full of whimsy, and each one has some element or another that makes it worthy of a look, so I’ve included all of them for you to see. Enjoy. [Read more…]

The Blue Fairy Book

Andrew Lang. The Blue Fairy Book. Illustrations by H.J. Ford. New York, Longmans, Green and Co., 1889.

This book was originally published in 1889, however, I have added the coloured frontispiece from the 1922 edition to this post. I did so because the illustration is the work of Henry J. Ford, who masterminded the art for the entire original Lang coloured fairy tale set. Otherwise, the 1889 edition contains more stories and illustrations than the edition from 1922.

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